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CCA files second appeal in PLN public records suit

Nashville Scene, Jan. 1, 2012.
CCA files second appeal in PLN public records suit -- Nashville Scene 2012

CCA Appeals Yet Again in Ongoing Open Records Tussle

Posted by Jonathan Meador on Thu, Jan 26, 2012 at 12:53 PM

Yesterday, Corrections Corporation of America filed its latest appeal to block an open records request filed years ago by a nonprofit media organization.

ON Jan. 25, CCA filed a notice of appeal in Davidson County Chancery Court in what amounts to its third appeal in a four-year-old battle with Prison Legal News, whose [associate] editor, Alex Friedmann, has been trying to get the private corrections company to release documents concerning its operations and potential legal snafus since 2008.

"Thus, after four years, CCA is still fighting hard to avoid producing the records I requested, which would have to be produced if I requested them from any public agency," Friedmann tells Pith via email. "This is a perfect example of the lack of transparency and lack of public accountability in the private prison industry."

Of course, it's no surprise why CCA is stalling. Considering CCA's reputation for poor treatment of immigrant detainees, allegations of fraudulent reporting practices, and practically writing Arizona's SB 1070 bill for the legislature, Friedmann's original records request could very well puncture even more holes in CCA's veil of secrecy.

A request for comment from CCA has not been returned.

At the heart of the battle is whether CCA, a private company, can be compelled to release information even though it contracts with governments and performs what has been traditionally a public service. So far, Chancery Court and the Tennessee Court of Appeals side with Friedmann. In December, Chancery Court again ruled in Friedmann's favor on remand, which led to CCA's recent notice of appeal.

If Friedmann succeeds, CCA will be ordered to release documents detailing legal complaints in which CCA has paid out in excess of $500 to complainants; "state, county and municipal government reports, audits and investigations" of CCA; "court rulings issuing injunctive or declaratory judgments against CCA, including sanctions and contempt orders"; and "spreadsheets, summaries or similar databases showing all litigation concluded against CCA in Tennessee which resulted in the payment of money damages, settlements, sanctions, claims and/or attorney fees."

Pith'll keep you posted on future developments.

[Note: Minor factual corrections made by PLN staff]